By Malcolm Keys Director, BAI Communications UK

At BAI Communications, we regularly challenge ourselves to ensure we are inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Last year marked the ‘Year of Engineering’ in the UK and brought a much-needed spotlight to the vast range of career opportunities available within our sector. It’s now 2019 and with the Government estimating that our industry needs around 200,000 more skilled recruits a year until 2024, there is still a lot of work to be done if we are going to close the skills gap.

BAI Communications in the UK recently signed a partnership agreement with Generating Genius, a London based charitable organisation whose aim is to support talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their potential in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The challenges facing young people today as they search for their dream role post education are well documented, and the world of STEM isn’t a natural first choice for many. With evidence suggesting females and those from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in particular, are being lost at points throughout the engineering education pipeline, organisations like Generating Genius have an important role to play in helping employers redress the balance in their ambitions to achieve a diverse workforce.

Employers within the industry need to take responsibility, not just to improve their own talent pipeline but to help widen access to the sector. BAI is a proud partner of Generating Genius, who don’t just provide a few tutoring sessions, but run year-long programmes that expose beneficiaries to the world of STEM through various challenges activities, industry visits, mentoring and other support from businesses.

Through this partnership BAI recently hosted a Generating Genius Challenge Day during which students were given a challenge designed by our engineering team. The aim was to provide students with an insight into exactly what life is like in the company before letting them test their own knowledge and business skills with an engineering challenge. We were fortunate to meet and work with twenty-one sixth form students from across 19 London schools.

We set the students a real-life environmental business impact challenge. With increasing pressure on industry to map and mitigate its environmental footprint, businesses like BAI are looking at how we deliver sustainability through every project. It was clear from the outset that the students cared passionately about the issue supporting research showing that Generation Z are most likely to believe companies should address urgent social and environmental issues.

From the beginning to the end of the day, the behavioural shift in the students was inspiring to observe. Some confided that that they felt apprehensive and shy in the morning and had a real sense of achievement and felt they were more confident in their abilities once they had successfully tested their solutions with the BAI judging panel.

The students said the session “…allowed us to experience hands on, real life application of a field that many do not have a clear understanding of.”

By the end of the day it was clear that initial perceptions of what a job in the engineering sector entails had changed, with one student commenting “I learnt how much understanding and application of the sciences are required in engineering. I really appreciate this event as it was very eye-opening”. Another student said: “I had previously written off engineering completely, but this session has opened my eyes to the fact that there are many different pathways of engineering.”

With the Careers and Enterprise Company’s 2018 State of the Nation report finding only 53% of those schools surveyed delivered work experience for post-16-year olds, there is a real need for employers to step up and assist in filling this careers gap.

This was BAI’s first experience working with Generating Genius and we look forward to creating our plan for the next 12 months with the team. Organisations like Generating Genius are doing a fantastic job at providing hands-on support for many talented young people who may not otherwise get a chance to pursue a career in STEM but they can’t do it alone – they are going to need support from within the industry to inspire the next generation.